Does “I am in your Area” really work?

Over the years I have heard Major Gifts executives say this over and over again to persuade a would-be prospect to see them.  But does it really work?  I would venture to say ‘No it doesn’t!’ and here are lots of reasons why:

Firstly it can appear arrogant.  It is conveying the impression that I, the Major Gifts Executive, want to see you when I think it is convenient and when I don’t have to go out of my way.  Therefore the underpinning value could be perceived as ‘My time is more important than yours.’

Secondly it often stems from fear.  The MGE is trying to appear nonchalant and apologetic when really they perhaps lack the boldness and courage to say ‘I want to meet with you because you are important to this work, important to us….. I am interested in your views on…..’ (and therefore worthy of all the time that it will take me to drive to your house or office).

Thirdly, it can appear that the prospect is second best to another appointment that the MGE already has scheduled for that day.  This is not good on a number of fronts and might portray they are one of many or worse that you have put them second in your diary rather than first on that day and you needed them to fill in the time.

A goal for an MGE is to make every prospect seem special and communicate that you are going out of your way just for them. Prospects and qualified major donors need a high level of service and attention.

Also trust is something we want to build with the prospect/potential donor so it is perhaps not appropriate to make up “I will be in your area on….’.  So I would suggest you don’t say it and go for boldness instead.  Put potential dates in the diary of when you would like to go and offer one.  No need to use the ‘um I’m in your area on….’

Also practise and practise the reasons why you want to meet with them. Many prospects admire boldness and truthfulness.  This is not the ‘I want a large gift from you…’ but rather ‘thank you (most great prospects are already on your database and can be located with a wealth overlay!) for your interest, your gifts…’ Try the ‘I work closely with our Chief Executive and he/she is keen to meet senior level individuals….’ or ‘I would very much like the opportunity to explain our national/global strategy that will greatly enhance the service to the people/beneficiaries’.

However some prospects may offer up the objection that they don’t want you to spend your time visiting them, don’t want you to drive to their area especially for them and so on.  Often this can be false modesty so I would try ‘of course I would like to meet you… if you are busy let’s stick to one hour (or adjust this to 20 minutes if visiting them in a fast paced office), I would be delighted to meet you’.   In which case the ‘I will be nearby on…. date’ may (?) answer this objection.  But I would suggest using it ONLY when it is appropriate and ONLY to answer that objection.  And I would have already put three dates in the diary to offer.

The main message here is to speak with passion and be confident.  High level individuals love it.  It won’t work with everyone but then you don’t want everyone, only the prospects who respond to you and want to hear more……which research shows is likely to only to be one third.

What are your experiences?  Let me know here……

Ruth is the principal and founder of Ascent Philanthropy, author of two books and passionate about helping non-profits with their major gift programmes by offering advice for introducing a new major gift programme or enhancing the productivity of the philanthropy team

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